There, they played five matches against big school competition, earning wins against Thompson and Homewood while losing to Grissom, Vestavia Hills and Mountain Brook, each of the five a 6A school.
“They played very well,” said Bryant, whose team has made it to the state tournament each of the past two seasons. “I wanted them to take that level of play into the area and regional tournament.”
That’s precisely what the Lady Raiders did, sweeping the Lady Warriors 3-0 (25-8, 25-14, 25-1) in the semifinals before downing Sand Rock 25-14, 25-19, 25-23 to take the area crown.
Pleasant Valley (32-14) will face Area 9 runner-up Ranburne in the first-round of the Region C tournament at Ohatchee at 11:15 a.m. Saturday.
The final was the second victory for the Lady Raiders against the Lady Wildcats, who advanced by besting West End-Walnut Grove. Pleasant Valley took the only regular season meeting between the teams, winning 3-0 at home on Sept. 14th.
After getting beaten fairly handily in Game 1, Sand Rock stepped up to make a match of it in Games 2 and 3.
Sand Rock took the lead at 9-8 and stretched it to 10-8 on a kill from senior middle hitter Karlie Anderson. However, Pleasant Valley quickly reeled off four consecutive points and to gain a two-point edge to seize control of the game on their way to going up 2-0.
Despite Pleasant Valley jumping out to 4-0 lead, the third and final game wound up being the most hotly contested.
Sand Rock evened the score at six in a game that included eight lead changes. The Lady Raiders trailed 22-20 but battled back behind the precision setting of Ashley Bryant and big hitting of Jessie Kate Stewart and Payton Lewis among others. Stewart ended the match on the last of several violent kills off back row attacks set up by Bryant to finish Sand Rock.
“I just told them they had to pick it up,” Dana Byrant said. “They let up some in that second game but other than that they played well.”
Bryant was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after finishing the day with nine kills, 11 digs, five aces and 27 assists. Stewart led the way offensively with 16 kills, 14 digs and an assist. Lewis had 13 kills and five blocks. Jessica Boozer added nine kills and four blocks on the day. All three were named to the all-tournament team.
Jordan Luttrell had 17 digs, nine aces and four kills. Morgan Smith added 15 diggs and Megan Strickland contributed with 11 digs for Pleasant Valley.
Nick Birdsong covers prep sports for The Anniston Star. He can be reached at 235-3575. Follow him on Twitter @birds_word.